The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them. (Proverbs 20:7)
A child’s natural inclination is to follow in the footsteps of their father. They are drawn to the strength and security of a father whose goal in life is to protect and serve his family. In the absence of the solid foundational father figure, who lives, teaches and reinforces what a moral life consists of on a daily basis the family and society with it degrades into chaos. Sadly, today we see the result of three decades of a significant portion of fathers not participating as an integral part of their children’s daily lives. The west has “daddy issues.”
Many of us have most likely heard the phrase, “daddy issues.” This phrase has a number of different connotations. Some appropriate and others much less appropriate. We now hear it so often heard that it should cause each of us to pause and reflect on the current situation in society.
The ever present positive impact of fatherhood, which was once commonplace in society, is now much less common and its absence is having a detrimental effect on society as a whole. We can easily see the effects such as epidemic poverty among single mothers, crime, promiscuity, and a great sense of vulnerability among our young people. Have we, as a society, lost a sense of the value and importance of fatherhood?
Let’s look at the facts: According to Data Center Kids Count in 2015 there were over 24 million children living in a single parent households in the United States of America. Eighty percent of those children do not have their father living in the same household. Statistically that is approximately 30% of all children growing up without their father present in the home.
In 2013 CNSNews reported that 48% of all first births in the USA are born to unwed mothers. Pause and think about that statistic – 48%!
Here are a few more alarming statistics:
• 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
• 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
• 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
• 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
• 70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988)
• 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction)
According to the Family Civil Liberties Union these statistics mean that children from fatherless homes are:
5 times more likely to commit suicide
32 times more likely to run away
20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
14 times more likely to commit rape
9 times more likely to drop out of high school
10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances
9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution
20 times more likely to end up in prison
In short, our country is in obvious need of good fathers and, in my estimation, in serious need of God the Father.
Another not so subtle effect of the failure of fatherhood in our country is the inability for our young people to handle disappointments and struggles. We see this with the current phenomenon of “safe spaces” or what looks like to an outside observer to be a “cry in.”
As a business person, I often see the look in a new employee’s eye when they learn they have made an error or had a business failure. It is as if they have never heard those words “error or fail” before. Too many lack the fortitude it takes to accept failure and learn from it.
Where have we gone wrong as a society? Can it be fixed? What do we do? All are questions that must be answered and actions put in place to begin to remedy the situation.
Over the last decade western society has presented the false notion that men are not needed and are no different than women. Biological facts aside, that is a false premise. Our children need both a mother AND a father. The complimentarity of both sexes help develop a well balanced productive child.
As an imperfect father of six, half of whom are now independent and faithful Catholics, the remaining half are still young enough to remain on the family “payroll” for the foreseeable future, I must say I do not have all the answers. Had it not been for the grace of God and a strong God loving wife, I am sure I would have messed the whole fatherhood thing up.
God, being good all of the time, however has given us His words of Divine wisdom that direct us on the path toward being a good father. God’s statement to Adam at the time of the great fall indicates for all men one of God’s primary roles for us as a husbands and fathers:
All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. (Genesis 3:17)
One of the primary roles as a husband and father is to provide for our wife and children. As men of God, we must embrace work and teach our sons and daughters the dignity of hard work. Teaching them the willingness to work begins at a young age with chores around the house, a part-time job in high school and the reward that comes from a job well done. As father’s we must require this of our children. The lessons learned from their youth will carry them toward a productive adult life.
Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Separated from thier father a child cannot witness the sacrificial love he has for their mother in good times or bad. A boy or girl that sees a father’s love for his wife and his willingness to lay his life down for her and her children through the dignity of work will most likely emulate that same pattern in their own lives and choose a spouse accordingly.
St. Paul tells us:
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. (Ephesians 5:25)
This passage is often under whelmed by society’s current meaning of an emotion based love. A couple may start with love as an emotion, but to remain in-love is a decision that must be recommitted to each day. This type of committed love is written on the hearts of most men from their earliest years. We, as a society, must stop denigrating and minimizing the role of men and fathers in our children’s lives. If we want men to “step up to the plate” as men committed to their families, fatherhood, like motherhood, must regain a place of honor. We must recognize how men demonstrate their love through hard work and sacrifice.
The demonstrated love of a man for his wife is visible in a continuous self-sacrifice that places her spiritual and physical needs, and those of her children, at the highest of the man’s priorities. – Jay Toups
From day one in our marriage my wife made it clear that one the most important requirements for her husband was to be a good father to her children. She made it clear she wanted a spiritual leader and hard worker. Nothing less would have been acceptable. (Yes, she is a strong woman.) To the women reading this: hold your husband or future husband accountable.
When we first married I was not familiar with how to become the spiritual leader of the family. Over time, I was taught by other good fathers that it required me to seek a relationship with the Christ. Which to this day is ever evolving and growing in its depth. A simple biblical passage I heard as a young father helped put this role in perspective.
“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
This passage was so impactful on us as couple we named our stillborn son Joshua.
The verse from Joshua reminded me that I had to make a daily choice. What “god” did I serve? The One true God or the contemporary gods of money, materialism and lust?
What does it mean to serve the Lord? First, to become a good father one must be a good son of The Father. Serving God is more than going to Mass on Sunday and receiving the sacraments. Although, those are absolutes. It means, as a husbands, our primary mission is to serve, care for our families and teach our children the faith from their earliest years. It also means serving each other and those nearest to us. The formula is simple: serve God, serve your wife, serve your children and serve those in need around you.
Men, we must be servant leaders as Christ was to His disciples.
In summary, yes the woes we see in society and among our children can be fixed. It will require strong faith filled men who embrace the role of leaders and fathers as God designed it.
Here are a few simple tips I have gleaned, though the grace of God, from other father’s during the past 28 years of my own fatherhood. I hope they can help other dads on their journey:
- Seek an abiding relationship with Our Savior
- Pray every day the moment your head lifts from the pillow. Pray for your wife, pray for your children, ask God to make you the man He wants you to be.
- Develop the virtue of fortitude. You are going to need it. Help your children develop the virtue of fortitude. They are going to need it.
- Be humble. Recognize God’s hand in all your achievements.
- Embrace and teach your children the dignity of hard work from an early age.
- Be a servant leader and teach your children to be servant leaders.
- Decide to love your wife as Christ loves the Church.
Please pray for me as I pray for you. Always remember Christ, our wives and our children are worth whatever we must give of ourselves on their behalf.
Our vocation of fatherhood is our path to sainthood.
God is good!
JMJ, pray for us.